Size-dependent changes in sea spray aerosol composition and properties with different seawater conditions

Andrew P. Ault, Ryan C. Moffet, Jonas Baltrusaitis, Douglas B. Collins, Matthew J. Ruppel, Luis A. Cuadra-Rodriguez, Defeng Zhao, Timothy L. Guasco, Carlena J. Ebben, Franz M. Geiger, Timothy H. Bertram, Kimberly A. Prather*, Vicki H. Grassian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


A great deal of uncertainty exists regarding the chemical diversity of particles in sea spray aerosol (SSA), as well as the degree of mixing between inorganic and organic species in individual SSA particles. Therefore, in this study, single particle analysis was performed on SSA particles, integrating transmission electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray analysis and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy with near edge X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy, with a focus on quantifying the relative fractions of different particle types from 30 nm to 1 μm. SSA particles were produced from seawater in a unique ocean-atmosphere facility equipped with breaking waves. Changes to the SSA composition and properties after the addition of biological (bacteria and phytoplankton) and organic material (ZoBell growth media) were probed. Submicrometer SSA particles could be separated into two distinct populations: one with a characteristic sea salt core composed primarily of NaCl and an organic carbon and Mg2+ coating (SS-OC), and a second type consisting of organic carbon (OC) species which are more homogeneously mixed with cations and anions, but not chloride. SS-OC particles exhibit a wide range of sizes, compositions, morphologies, and distributions of elements within each particle. After addition of biological and organic material to the seawater, a change occurs in particle morphology and crystallization behavior associated with increasing organic content for SS-OC particles. The fraction of OC-type particles, which are mainly present below 180 nm, becomes dramatically enhanced with increased biological activity. These changes with size and seawater composition have important implications for atmospheric processes such as cloud droplet activation and heterogeneous reactivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5603-5612
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 4 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Size-dependent changes in sea spray aerosol composition and properties with different seawater conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this